BAFTA Award Winning Design Thieves | September 3, 2004

[UPDATE] Emote took down the copied site a few hours after this post and have sincerely apologised. As such I’ve removed their email address and my request for people to contact them and complain about this case of design theft. For more info see my latest comments.

If there is one thing you’d expect from a BAFTA award winning new media company, it’d be originality. So it’s very interesting to see that Birmingham new media company Emote, have decided to cut out the creative process completely with their latest redesign, and help themselves to the Web Standards Awards layout instead.


To make life easier, these Design Thieves have literally lifted the WSA stylesheet and even many of the images. In fact the only alteration to the CSS I can see (apart from some line breaks) is the addition of their own copyright notice.

Copyright 2004 Emote [ New Media Production] and may not be reproduced.

My question for the day then has to be, Is it ever right for a design agency to steal somebody else’s work, and if not, why not?

Posted at September 3, 2004 9:04 AM


Bogdan Manolache said on September 2, 2004 9:14 AM

This is outrageous. Is there anything to be done about this?

Ok, copying websites is not something new, even for design companies, but to win a world contest with a copied website is more than WRONG.

Andy Budd said on September 2, 2004 9:22 AM

Hi Bogdan,

Thanks for your concern. However I should stress that it wasn’t our design that won them the BAFTA. It’s the design of their company website that they’ve stolen. I mentioned that BAFTA as an indication that this is a company who should know better.

Matthew Pennell said on September 2, 2004 9:30 AM

Emote delivers customised design services…

And by customise, they mean “we take somebody else’s design and put our name at the top”.

GaBuBu said on September 2, 2004 9:31 AM

Pfff! things like this would be solved with a ddos! Sad but true!

Johan Edlund said on September 2, 2004 9:34 AM


It’s worth noticing that they’ve not only stolen the design, but also the copy that Cameron Adams wrote for WSA about web standards. Take a look under “News+Info”.

Patrick said on September 2, 2004 9:39 AM

Wow. This is really bad. When individuals steal designs it’s bad, but it’s often just people trying to learn at best or lazy opportunists at worst. It is rarely for commercial gain. When a profit-making organisation, and a web design company at that (and a high-profile design company at that!), starts thieving, it’s a completely different kettle of fish. And time to seriously consider legal action…

Andrew Green said on September 2, 2004 10:00 AM

Sorry to nitpick, Andy, but your link above to the Web Standards Awards site actually links to these thieving toerags.

Kevin Leitch said on September 2, 2004 10:03 AM

Incredible, totally incredible. I’ve done as you siggest Andy and emailed them.

John said on September 2, 2004 10:05 AM

Unbelievable! Well that’s it then I am off to lift for my own purposes or was that: Most of us mortals spend our days banging our heads against the desk, wishing we could come up with designs like this but that doesn’t mean we actually go out and nick the whole damn thing.

Stealing ideas and reworking them for your own purposes is one thing, but to actually take the files someone has spent hours putting together and simply pop them on your server is an outrage, maybe all their clients would like to know what they have done?

Jake said on September 2, 2004 10:10 AM

You might check this site in their portfolio.

Not a straight out rip off, but certainly ‘influenced by’ a popular web-standards advocacy site… . Source code appears a little influenced too…

GaBuBu said on September 2, 2004 10:20 AM

Submissions in are closed, but i can manage to get this case included. Please check:

Mike Stenhouse said on September 2, 2004 10:31 AM

Emote earn a living from web design. If they want to use the work of the WSA to promote their services they should pay for the privilege. ‘Nuff said.

They have a BAFTA so they’ve obviously got some skills which makes their stealing of the WSA design even worse - it’s pure laziness.

Mike Stenhouse said on September 2, 2004 10:33 AM

Emote earn a living from web design. If they want to use the work of the WSA to promote their services they should pay for the privilege. ‘Nuff said.

They have a BAFTA so they’ve obviously got some skills which makes their stealing of the WSA design even worse - it’s pure laziness.

Jeff Minard said on September 2, 2004 10:37 AM

Isn’t this, like, the 4th time that sites design has been pilfered for a for-profit company? That’s got to at least make you proud that it’s hot enough ;-)

Aside from that, however, it’s pretty bad to have it stolen - you never know though, maybe the judges didn’t check their website out, maybe it was different when they won, maybe no judge had ever seen the WSA site. While these would be no excuse for the perp, I can’t fault the BAFTA folk quite so fast.

Regardless, they (Emote) needs a good size army boot (steel toe preferred) to the ass.

KevinN said on September 2, 2004 10:57 AM

Excellent example of being inspired from a website that wen’t wrong… really, really wrong!

Sam said on September 2, 2004 11:08 AM

Wonder what Cameron has to say about this.

Truely dispicable. Another angry visitors email is on its way to them.

Jon Hicks said on September 2, 2004 11:11 AM

Shameless. There are various levels of design theft, this comes under the ‘Just change the text’ category

steve said on September 2, 2004 11:41 AM

After a brief spell of directory listing, emote have now returned to their old & tacky flash 5 site.

Rock on Andy!!

Brandon said on September 2, 2004 12:23 PM

Ahh, they’re back to Flash. I’ve been going nuts trying to find this pirated site, and have had no luck. That explains alot. :)

Will said on September 2, 2004 12:41 PM

There reply to my email was as follows:

“All we can do is apologise. We had outsourced this work to a freelance and
had no idea that the work was plagiarized. The site has been taken down and
replaced with our old one while we rebuild.”

Draw your own conclusions.

Will said on September 2, 2004 12:44 PM

I of course mean “Their reply to my email”

steve said on September 2, 2004 12:45 PM

Did anyone else get a reply to outraged email, stating they had outsourced the offending site (not to mention the ala one) to a freelance, and had no idea!

I do freelance work, and take offence at this obvious and derogatory lie. This is an all to easy excuse, blame the scamming freelance and be done with it.

I just can’t believe that;

  1. They outsourced their own website
  2. Nobody in a team of web professionals spotted a copy of such a high profile site
  3. They won an award and still had no clue
  4. They won an award!

Give em hell Andy, and don’t take no freelance bullshit!

Cameron Adams said on September 2, 2004 12:54 PM

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry … I think perhaps laughter is the healthiest option; leave bitterness for the legal team.

But it certainly shows what a killer job Johan has done with the design. Lucky you didn’t go with my suggested alterations ;o]

Mike P. said on September 2, 2004 1:03 PM

Funny, I’ve seen the WSA site before, but clicked thru this ripoff version because the design is just that appealing.

Now the flash version is up and I can’t even bother to wait for it to load…

anne parouty said on September 2, 2004 3:18 PM

Andy Budd

I am writing to apologise to you for the fact that emote’s website has apparently been built around much of your own code and source material.

The site was outsourced to a young designer at a time when we were moving away from Flash and towards CSS based design. It was a very over stretched time for us, for personnel rather than business reasons, and we did not put adequate controls in place for what was produced. Emote is not a large business, there are in fact only two of us.

As soon as we were made aware of what had happened we removed the site from our server. It has been replaced with our previous site while we undertake a rebuild.

The site was built in our name and we must take responsibility for it. I cannot apologise to you enough for what has happened. It has been a hard lesson for us and I can assure you that nothing like this will happen again.

anne parouty

Dale Cruse said on September 2, 2004 4:50 PM

One lesson that must be learned here is that when you’re a website creation firm (no matter how large or small), outsourcing the design of your own website is never a good idea. Your portfolio site must reflect who YOU are and what YOU do - not anyone else.

And what’s the adage about the dentist’s children always having the worst teeth because the dentist has no time for them? We all must take care of and take ownership of what goes on inside our own “homes” before we can look elsewhere.

Brady said on September 2, 2004 5:36 PM

…or getting your haircut from someone with bad hair… or getting your car fixed from a mechanic whose car doesn’t run right (that’s a tip from Steve buscemi’s “Trees Lounge”).

Atleast they responded to it promptly, that’s nice to see. But I am also perplexed by web designers who haven’t seen that site! Are they still looking at print design books from for insight and learning of new techniques?

They’re either out of the loop or I need to unplug for the week.

Either way, it’s a great site, and I think many of us know where the talent came from:)… originally!

Ed said on September 2, 2004 6:01 PM

Well done Andy, has anyone been on to BAFTA to get the award assigned to the rightful design team at WSA?

Could someone publish an email address so we can encourage them.

Ed said on September 2, 2004 6:05 PM

Sorry, I was being lazy. There is a contacts form at the BAFTA site. Lets now get the award given to the right people.

Ed said on September 2, 2004 6:12 PM

OK, so the award winning site wasn’t stolen. mutter, mutter. I’ve still complained to BAFTA

Seth Thomas Rasmussen said on September 2, 2004 6:52 PM

So wait… where is the copied site? I am confused.

Brady said on September 2, 2004 7:07 PM

Read the previous posts — they removed the copied site and launched their old one after all the complaints, Magnus:)

Neil Ford said on September 2, 2004 8:11 PM

Disgraceful lack of care, even if the
“freelance” stiffed them.

Kick some arse Andy, we are all behind you man.

Nell M said on September 2, 2004 8:59 PM

I can still see the copied site.

So they outsourced this site too? Damn freelancers, they are the scourge of our society! (kidding).

jkottke said on September 2, 2004 9:02 PM

We had outsourced this work to a freelance and had no idea that the work was plagiarized.

This has been the excuse for many web design thefts I’ve heard of. Other popular excuses include:

What you never hear:

Alex Giron said on September 2, 2004 9:11 PM

I’m a little late to the party I see. A few weeks ago this same exact thing happened to me, cssbeauty was coppied, and their response was the same “the freelancer did it!”, This coming from a web design company… sigh when will it end…

Ben Saunders said on September 2, 2004 10:13 PM

Flippin’ ‘eck.

I spotted the first rip-off of my site’s design a few days ago and I’m not even a bloody designer. What is the world coming to?

I see they still have changed their A List Apart rip-off -

Andrew Phillipo said on September 3, 2004 2:22 AM

I would say before we all jump in to condemn, we have no idea of the problems this design company are obviously having (and lets face it - needing to outsource your own site means they got BIG problems) and that these guys, chances are, are not bad people persay.
Oh who am I kidding hang them up by their private parts. We should organise a professional directory to help people to avoid companies such as these - who wants to pay money for what could end up being someone elses site.

Andreas said on September 3, 2004 6:06 AM

Of course this is disgraceful, but speaking in their defence, sort of, as the Creative Director for an ad agency I have frequently outsourced web work that needed doing for our own company.

It makes perfect sense. You all know how it is, as soon as a paying client job comes in work on your own project stops. We’re also incredibly close to to our own companies which can lead to the ‘wood for the trees’ syndrome.

Allocating a budget and letting a third party take care of the work can often be the ideal solution.

Anyway, I am glad that the issue got resolved so quickly.

anne parouty said on September 3, 2004 7:51 AM

Can something positive come out of this? I know we’ve got off to a terrible start but we are not bad people. We made a mistake and we are very sorry for it. We are a small outfit - just two of us. We need good people to work with. Most of our paying work is in arts and learning. Although we’ve done a lot of Flash work in the past, and will continue to do it when its right for the job, we are serious about developing access compliant sites. Its where our sectors going - or should be. This means we need to build sites with elegant and valid css and valid structural mark-up, all the time bearing in mind the requirements of assistive technologies. Our projects are often on fairly tight budgets but they can be challenging and give us great content to work with. Believe me I understand if you wouldn’t dream of even speaking to us but like I say we aren’t bad people, we made a mistake and we are very sorry.

anne parouty

Isofarro said on September 3, 2004 8:27 AM

Anne Parouty asks: “Can something positive come out of this?”

Name the freelancer. Web designers deserve the right to know who is ripping off their designs. Its certainly not enough to say “it was a freelancer” without providing any references.

Veerle Pieters said on September 3, 2004 8:30 AM

Can’t believe a web design company could do such a thing, how arrogant and outrageous! Thing is, it happened to my blog and they used exactly the same excuse. Very convenient, blame the freelancer. But then when I started asking about who, invoice, bank statement, any proof etc. The company in question said everything was done for free, and agreed on verbally… Yeah right!

The evolution in using this excuse is only bad for those freelancers who are still doing an honest business.

I think if … IF.. this is really the case I would at least come up with some proof instead of just writing some apologies. But I’m sure in this case they are lying, who gives their own website design to a freelancer? It’s the very first thing that should be designed in-house.

Lee said on September 3, 2004 8:39 AM

Okay, let’s take a step back, they’ve removed the site, they’ve apologised. I think they realised they f*cked up. Whether this was intentional or not we’ll never know, but I think we can all learn a valuable business lesson here:

You don’t need web design skills to start a web design business, just a get a sales team who can talk-the-talk and outsource everything to freelancers.

Cheap Ass New Media Productions, opening soon.

Andy Budd said on September 3, 2004 9:17 AM

Well first off I’d like to say how pleased I was that issue got resolved so quickly. I was in email contact with our lawyers yesterday but fortunately didn’t need to proceed with any Cease and Desist noticed as the site got taken down pretty sharpish.

I have to admit that yesterday morning I was rather angry. Wanting to know why this company ripped off Johans excellent work I gave them a bell to see what they had to say fro themselves.

I spoke to Anne and she was very apologetic, saying pretty much what she said in the comments above. I have to admit that I don’t entirely believe the freelancer story, but I do believe that it won’t happen again.

With my experience of working with freelancers you’ll get them to create a number of designs, and then choose one design for them to refine. When you’re happy you’ll get them to create a basic template which you’ll test and refine further. Lastly you’ll supply them with the sit copy so they can build all the pages.

What you don’t do is send them off to build a site and then come back two weeks later, having had zero communication or input in the process to find a fully built site with fully written content. At the very least I’d expect the site owners would have written the copy, yet on the offending site parts of Camerons copy had been stolen as well.

I think this incident goes to show a couple of things. First off, while the web is very small, it’s not as small as people would like to think. If you rip off a well known site it’ll eventually get back to the site owners. In this case an old friend from University noticed it and shot me off an email yesterday (hat tip Alex).

It also goes to show that community power can really do things. When I rang Anne to discuss the issue I asked her how she’d been made aware of the issue (I was waiting to talk to our lawyer first) and why she’d chosen to take the copied site down. She said that they removed the site “As soon as the emails started coming in”. I can only imagine that a good portion of you took my requests to heart and emailed them to complain (I hope you all kept your emails clean and professional though). So I’d like to thank everybody who emailed as it’s you folks who helped resolve the issue so quickly.

While I’m not entirely convinced by the arguments I believe that Anne and Emote are really very sorry for stealing the WSA design and am happy to accept their apologies and leave it at that. I’m glad that they see the benefits of CSS based design (above and beyond the fact that it’s easy to copy) and look forward to seeing a new and original Emote site appear in the next few months.

Phunky said on September 3, 2004 9:45 AM

I will put my hand up and state that many a time when im design my site’s i will initaly base it apon a design i like or part of summat i like. I then in turn envole the design into my own.

But one thing i do really not like about this is that they have taken the source and passed it on as there own, that to me is even worse!

Every site you look apon has something inspired form somewhere else, it’s very rare that you come across a truly unique site!

But this company get its client based on it’s standards coding, which by the looks of it they aint even able to do!

Colly said on September 3, 2004 10:40 AM

I think Andy’s last comment was aimed at wrapping this issue up. Emote have conducted themselves well since the outcry, realise what they’ve done, and are sorry. It doesn’t excuse the issue, but I agree with Andy - let’s now give them time to start afresh and leave off hammering any more nails in. They’ve got the message…

anne parouty said on September 3, 2004 11:04 AM

Dear Andy

I would like to thank you for your very understanding approach to a terrible breach of professionalism. I do assure you that it will not happen again. Both Sakab and myself are sick in our stomachs at what has happened. Our work is important to us. We feel we have a lot to make up and thank you for giving us the chance to do that.

anne parouty

Andy Budd said on September 10, 2004 8:08 AM

OK folks,

I think we can safely say that this thread has run it’s course. I generally don’t like deleting comments but I don’t think the last few posts haven’t been particularly helpful. The offending site has been removed, the people in question have apologised and thanks to all your emails, I doubt very much they’ll be doing this kind of thing soon. Especially as a search on the term design thieves now brings up the Emote site in 3rd place on, straight after this post.